Thursday, October 1, 2015

God's Will - Finding It or Being Found By It?

Our love story started at a camp in Michigan. That is, at least it started for me; Bill doesn't remember.

It was a fleeting thought that flew through my brain the day we were introduced, I want to marry that guy. A crazy thought for a college sophomore, or for anyone for that matter. I knew exactly three things about him ... his name, that we both attended Hope College, and that he was a freshman. And I made one assumption about him. It was wrong.

As our college journey continued, and our friendship blossomed into love, God confirmed that crazy (or was it) thought through his Word. I tend to believe that the crazy thought is an example of being found by the will of God.

Thinking back over many decisions, most often, I think God's will found me.

I couldn't have been more surprised that morning when the Sunday School superintendent approached me and asked me to develop a Bible memory program for the elementary children of our large church.

Driving home a couple of hours later, I related the request to Bill. His response was immediate, Sue, that's right up your alley. God found me and Well-Versed Kids was born.

Our family called four different churches home in the four different cities we lived in. With three of those four churches it was easy to see how God's will found us. Friendships from all four churches continue to bless today. If you need a church recommendation in Champaign/Urbana, IL, or Peoria, IL, or Sacramento, or Colorado Springs, please call. We can help.        

I don't think Simon and Andrew were praying to discover God's will or looking for a new vocation (from the Latin word vocare which means calling) when Jesus passed by. But they allowed themselves to be found.

I doubt that it ever entered the minds of Mary or Elizabeth to be miracle mothers, but they allowed themselves to be found.

Three of Jesus' most well-known prayers in Matthew 6, 26, and John 17 record that Jesus' greatest desire was to allow the will of God to find him.

           "Your kingdom come,  your will be done." Matthew 6:10
           "... nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will." Matthew 26:39
           "I glorified you on earth, having accomplished the work that you gave me to do. John 17:4          

In his book, Let Your Life Speak, Parker J. Palmer says, "... and we must trust and use our gifts in ways that fulfill the potentials God gave us." (underline mine)

As I look back at the twists and turns of my life and those closest to me, I see how God's will found us.

And all those "being founds" led to God's will being lived out in ordinary days and the kingdom of God advancing.

God is our creator.
God is all knowing.
God is an initiating God.
He loves me.
He is my shepherd.
His desire is for me.
His will is good, acceptable, and perfect.

So how do I set myself up to be found by the will of God? The better I know my friends, the better I know their desires. The same can be said of God.

"Yet it was the will of the LORD to crush him;
... the will of the LORD shall prosper in his hand."
Isaiah 53:10


Thursday, September 24, 2015

My Opinion of Me

The gospel frees me of my opinion of myself!

This is indeed GOOD NEWS!

When I first heard this one-liner it immediately resonated from two directions. 

First, Lies – As I grew up, Satan very craftily seeded some lies in my heart that seemed pretty  believable. I remember story after story from childhood and into adulthood that substantiated them. The plain and simple truth, I just wasn’t good enough!

Like all good Girl Scouts, I peddled cookies every year. And I sold A LOT. But never enough to be a delegate at that by invitation only camp in the summer. I kept a stiff upper lip and a tissue close by.

Would you believe I tried out for color guard in high school and marched the entire routine on the wrong foot? Big time embarrassing. I wasn’t selected.

In college I rushed sorority; and I received an invitation—after going through rush for the third time.

You get the picture, I wasn’t good enough. I carried that baggage with me down the aisle and lived its reality in our marriage. Life was hard. And God was gracious.

In the midst of all that drama, I heard the voice of God and responded. I acknowledged who I was, His child. My religion became a relationship and is morphing into a close friendship. It is good.

I began to acknowledge my lies: I’m not good enough; ministry is activity; I need a uniform or a role for significance and more. 

The naming of them was important. As each one felt the spotlight of the devil, God began whispering truth. At first it was too good to be true. But unlike most too goods to be true, this truth was TRUE; this truth began to take root in my heart and a slow smile began to creep across my face. 

I reviewed, and reviewed, and reviewed—to this day I review this truth. It is written in ink in my leather journal. Eventually what I instinctively knew in my heart became believable and the journey to my head sped up. The gospel was freeing me of my opinion of myself.

  Second, Truth – How I missed this all these years, I don’t know. But there was truth that I needed   to believe, that didn’t relate to the lies. 

  This transforming truth was a big ah-ha moment for me in a course I was taking. I am righteous; I  am  holy. You are too if you know Jesus. 

Romans 3:21, 22 – “But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it—the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe.”

I Corinthians 3:16, 17—“Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you? … For God’s temple is holy, and you are that temple.”

I penned these Scriptures into my leather journal. My journey continued as the gospel was freeing me of my opinion of myself.

A few years back I was introduced to Joan Anderson through her first book, A Year By the Sea. I underlined and starred these words from chapter 7, “I couldn’t help but imagine what my world might be like if I looked at the human beings I was closest to as holy and treated them with the same sense of respect. … I try to look deeper into his heart, at the human being behind the roles of husband, father, educator. Seeing him apart from the mortal agendas permits a sort of genuineness of spirit to float about the room.” (hmmmm, not sure about those last 5 words)

But her wisdom of seeing who people really are behind their roles … and often behind their masks connected with my heart long before I ever labeled myself or you with the word holy. 

The gospel is freeing me of my opinion of myself!

 “But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God
                                                  and not from us.”                                                                                                                                                                                    II Corinthians 4:7 NIV, 1984


Thursday, September 17, 2015

6 Month Olds and Ministry

David, our oldest, was born in February, perfect timing for those summer and fall stroller rides through the neighborhood.

(In those days, Bill's and my Navigator ministry assignment was the University of Illinois. As we look back on our career, those were some of our highlight years.)

David's birth ushered in a new chapter in my personal ministry life. I no longer drove to campus to lead a bible study, our neighborhood became my campus, my field -- and I found it white for harvest.

With David tucked securely in my hand-me-down stroller, we'd head out for our walks; David taking
in this new big world around him, me praying for our neighbors who lived behind all those closed doors.

I met Thayne that way. Before her divorce she lived around the corner and a friendship was born. After the divorce she moved into a duplex just a few blocks away. We started reading the bible together.

The snow storm was furious that night, but it didn't deter me from setting out for our scheduled study. I shared the gospel with her that snowy night and she responded.

The walk home is etched in my memory; my joy held at bay by the snow swirling all around me. (Remind me to tell you the rest of the story.)

Then there was Linda. As David and I strolled by her home, I noticed a baby swing through her front picture window. A connection. Boldly I walked to her front door and rang the bell. When she answered I blurted, I have a baby too! My David and her Eric were close to the same age and a friendship was born.

Linda and I also started reading the book of John together. And she too responded to the good news of the gospel. To this day, many years later, Linda's heart for ministry in her local church shines.

Liz and I met when we were both in our last trimesters with our second sons. Our connection was natural -- both because of our twin families and because both she and her husband had cousins on Navigator staff. Liz and I started a neighborhood bible study together.
Dinner with Don and Liz on their vacation this summer.

Our 4 sons (between us) are all married now and have children of their own. Our friendship continues and grows even though now 1000 miles separate us.

An ah-ha moment was growing in me during those years with young children. The gospel is not only good news for college students, it is good news for neighbors too. My field changed over the years; the gospel never changes.

"'Out of the mouths of infants and nursing babies
you have prepared praise.'"
Matthew 21:16

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Judah's Prayer

Judah's first day of school, August 2015
Judah is 5 years old. He is a young child. And he prays well.

As he prayed thanking Jesus for dinner that evening, he added, and please help the doctors in Philadelphia find out what is wrong with Ezra. Amen.

I smiled knowingly; my 60-something wisdom smug. I patted him on the head with pretend affirmation. After all, we already know what is wrong with Ezra. And more than that, we already know what the cure looks like. (Of course those words were never voiced.)

"When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child.
When I became a man, I gave up childish ways."

"But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name,,
he game the right to become children of God,"

Judah's prayer from a few weeks previous and these familiar words from I Corinthians 13:11 and John 1:12, came back to haunt me that Saturday morning as I sat in front of the Ronald McDonald House pondering the story God had our family in the midst of.

Yes we did know what was "wrong" with Ezra - he had Hyperinsulinism. But what we thought was the "cure" - surgery on his pancreas - was not the cure. Us adults didn't get it!

I was a 19 year old adult when my religion morphed into a relationship and I became a child of God.  
And I worked on giving up those childish ways. I looked around me and observed adult ways. 

Note to self ... do this, don't do this. Be an adult.

That Saturday morning I drove a stake in the ground. I gave up some of my knowing adult ways. Many years I believed giving up childish ways was a good thing. And sometimes it is. But not always.

Judah's child-like trust as he prayed that prayer is childishness that needs a home in my life too! Trust, the default of a child is a quality God desires for this adult-child too. I'm praying Judah and our other GRANDS will never give up their child-like trust.

"Trust in the LORD with all your heart,
and do not lean on your own understanding,"
Proverbs 3:5

My husband says, "God gives us permission to not understand". God, would you please help me to lean into trusting more than my desire to understand. Amen. 


Thursday, September 3, 2015

The Message of the Picnics

Summer 2015 didn't turn out the way we planned.

Usually a time of rest, reflection, and rejuvenation, this summer brought surprises that canceled expectations. And that's okay!

Ezra ready to party. Gramma ready to sleep!
Ezra's diagnosis led to fifty-four days this summer with our GRANDS; mostly with Judah, Naomi, and Ezra, but some with Jack and Ashlyn as well for our annual Mana - Pop-pa Camp.

We traveled west (partially planned); we traveled east (unplanned). I was on a first name basis with nurses at three different hospitals ... and then met the ER nurses as well in a fourth hospital.

These words came to me on August 1, two days before I broke my leg falling down one step at our Sanctuary (the reason for the ER visit).

Weary beyond weary;
Weary beyond knowing;
Weary beyond feeling.

The surprises of summer
Garden at the Ronald McDonald House.
Stretched thin the already weary.

A good weary;
A right weary;
Still a weary weary.

Care for yourself my friends advise.
But how? I don't know.
Time marches, weary grows.

I ask the Knower, the Wise One, He,
The gentle shepherd who cares for me.

The picnics that week, some mid-summer fun,
Whisper His wisdom,
The answer to my conundrum. 

The first He says is beauty, take time to enjoy.
The second my friend is quiet, listen, listen for my voice.

Beauty and Quiet, the anecdote weary friend.
Ponder, savor, wonder, and experience the weariness end.

The advice of several friends was the same as I spent five weeks in LA with Jeff and Aubrey and their three, make sure you take care of yourself!

How? I'm eating; I'm sleeping; exercise - well, I could have done better in that category.

At the waterfall.
Ashlyn and Jack; Pikes Peak
I returned to Colorado just in time for Mana - Pop-pa Camp. On Tuesday of that week, Jack, Ashlyn and I took a walk in the woods behind our home for a breakfast picnic. We stopped at a small waterfall for Jack to play with his remote-controlled boat. Ahhhh, the scenery, peaceful and beautiful. I heard God whisper, Sue, beauty is part of caring for yourself.

Later in the week, Bill and I drove to the top of Pikes Peak with the kids. We stopped on the way down for a picnic lunch. After sandwiches and watermelon, Bill took Jack and Ashlyn to climb on some rocks; I stayed back at the picnic table nestled under tall pines. Again, I heard God's gentle voice, Sue, quiet is a part of caring for yourself.

Beauty and quiet, my prescription for weariness.

But the unexpected continued. Five days into our time at the Sanctuary, I broke my leg and we returned home.
Some of the beauty I enjoyed at Dan and Trisha's home last week.

Beauty and quiet came in small doses this summer. The doses though left me with a contentment, and a certainty ... God is the blessed controller of all things; He knows my needs far better than I. 

"give thanks in all circumstances;
for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you."
I Thessalonians 5:18

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Embracing Dormancy

Winter Aspen
I penned this poem in February as I looked from my bedroom chair to the tall winter Aspen thriving by our deck.

Thriving - was that an appropriate February word? Bare and brownish-grey it was living its annual season of dormancy; it was winter-thriving. Growth and development seemed lacking, but its energy was being conserved for the beauty of the summer and fall tree it was becoming.

A few weeks ago, I paused over John 4:6 and following,

... so Jesus, wearied as he was from his journey, 
was sitting beside the well.

Summer Aspen
Jesus was weary - he sat down.
Jesus was thirsty - he asked for a drink.
Jesus was alert - to the needs of others.

August is the annual month of dormancy for Echoes of Grace

This writer is a bit weary from the journey of the past year.
She is thirsty and asking for a bit of rest, renewal, and rejuvenation. 
And truly, even during August, our month at our sanctuary, I hope to be alert to needs. 

Like our Aspen tree, I need a season of dormancy.

Echoes of Grace will return Thursday, September 3.

And my God will supply every need of your according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.
Philippians 4:19

Can you see our Sanctuary?